Archive for Edgar Bergen

Films of Fields #35: You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, W.C. Fields with tags , , , , , , , on December 18, 2016 by travsd

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We’ll be blogging about comedian W.C. Fields all through November and December as part of our tribute to the comedian called Fields Fest.  For a full list upcoming live Fields Fest events go here. 

You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939) was the first film of W.C. Fields’ celebrated Late Period.

Artistically, Fields’ career trajectory went the opposite of most of the other so-called classic comedians of the early sound era. Whereas the Marx Brothers, Mae West and Laurel and Hardy all LOST all creative freedom and artistic control over time, Fields actually had the opportunity to go a little crazy (in a good way) toward the END of his career, due to leverage he enjoyed through his popularity on radio. Where his Paramount pictures of the 20s and 30s are certainly enjoyable, the Universal period (1939-1944) is a surreal free-for-all. You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man was the first of these. It builds on Fields’ many previous performances on stage and screen as carny Eustace P. McGarrigle in Poppy and Sally of the Sawdust, here casting Fields as shady circus owner Larsen E. (i.e., larceny) Whipsnade. Despite his best efforts as a crooked showman, Whipsnade is forever on the verge of losing his circus, always dodging the sheriff. The plot, such as it is, concerns his daughter’s plan to marry a stuffy moneybags to bail her father out. Fortunately the plot gets short shrift here — that’s one of the many positive aspects of the Universal period. The focus is on the comedy, which just keeps on coming. To bolster the box office, Fields is teamed up here with his frequent radio rivals Edgar Bergen (with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd). The trading of barbs and quips between them comes fast and furious. Also in the cast is Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, acting in a similar capacity to his role in Jack Benny’s ensemble as Fields’ Man Friday. There’s an elephant named Queenie who sprays water on command, a pair of bearded twins (one of whom is the world’s tallest midget, the other of whom the world’s smallest giant), and much more nonsense like this. One of my favorite parts is when Bergen is AWOL from the circus so that he can pursue Fields’ daughter (whom he loves), forcing Fields to do a ventriloquism routine himself. I’m biased, but I think this is a film every human being on earth should own.

In Which Mae West Offends the Public in Her 4th Medium (Radio)

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Comediennes, Comedy, Mae West, Radio (Old Time Radio), Women with tags , , , , , , , on August 17, 2015 by travsd

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In continuing celebration of Mae West’s birthday….a little post about a historical event which occurred on December 12, 1937. That is the date on which Mae appeared on The Chase and Sanborn Hour starring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

Thus far in her career West had run afoul of the authorities and producers in the fields of vaudeville, the Broadway stage, and Hollywood films. She had been banned, censored, fined, arrested and even incarcerated for her naughty mouth and equally naughty pen. But thus far she’d had no run-ins with the radio networks (probably because she hadn’t done much radio). All that was about to change. Her appearance on the show featured a sketch where Don Ameche played Adam, and Mae played Eve – – an Eve who was all too willing to eat the apple of temptation, and only too glad to blow the boredom of Eden, which her character refers to as a “dump”. Then she did a skit with Charlie McCarthy where she said suggestive lines like “Honey, I’ll let you play in my wood pile”.

A massive protest write-in campaign occurred (mostly from religious groups) and Mae was banned from NBC for 12 years. Aside from Orson Welles’ “little green man” prank, this is one of the most notorious incidents of the classic radio era.

Curious to know what all the fuss was about? You can hear it here:

http://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/variety/edgar-bergen-and-charlie-mccarthy/adam-and-eve-mae-west-1937-12-12

To find out more about  the history of show businessconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And check out my other book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

W.C. Fields in “You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man”

Posted in BUNKUM, Circus, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, W.C. Fields with tags , , , , , , on February 18, 2014 by travsd

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Today marks the anniversary of the release date of what may be W.C. Fields’ best remembered (certainly most iconic) film You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939).

Artistically, Fields’ career trajectory went the opposite of most of the other so-called classic comedians of the early sound period. Whereas the Marx Brothers, Mae West and Laurel and Hardy all LOST all creative freedom and artistic control over time, Fields actually had the opportunity to go a little crazy (in a good way) toward the END of his career, due to leverage he enjoyed through his popularity on radio. Where his Paramount pictures of the 20s and 30s are certainly enjoyable, the Universal period (1939-1944) is a surreal free-for-all.

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You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man was the first of these. It builds on Fields’ many previous performances on stage and screen as carny Eustace P. McGarrigle in Poppy and Sally of the Sawdust, here casting Fields as shady circus owner Larsen E. (i.e., larceny) Whipsnade. Despite his best efforts as a crooked showman, Whipsnade is forever on the verge of losing his circus, always dodging the sheriff. The plot, such as it is, concerns his daughter’s plan to marry a stuffy moneybags to bail her father out. Fortunately the plot gets short shrift here — that’s one of the many positive aspects of the Universal period. The focus is on the comedy, which just keeps on coming.

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To bolster the box office, Fields is teamed up here with his frequent radio rivals Edgar Bergen (with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd). The trading of barbs and quips between them comes fast and furious.

w_c_-fields-rochester-you-can-t-cheat-an-honest-man

Also in the cast is Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, acting in a similar capacity to his role in Jack Benny’s ensemble as Fields’ Man Friday. There’s an elephant named Queenie who sprays water on command, a pair of bearded twins (one of whom is the world’s tallest midget, the other of whom the world’s smallest giant), and much more nonsense like this. One of my favorite parts is when Bergen is AWOL from the circus so that he can pursue Fields’ daughter (whom he loves), forcing Fields to do a ventriloquism routine himself.

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I’m biased, but I think this is a film every human being on earth should own.

For more on comedy film history don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc . To learn more about show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

An Edgar Bergen Christmas

Posted in Comedy, Radio (Old Time Radio), Ventriloquism & Puppetry with tags , , , , on December 12, 2013 by travsd

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Another in our series of Christmas themed posts:

Here are Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on the Chase & Sanborn Hour from Christmas Eve, 1944. For more on Bergen, see my full article here.

To find out more about the variety arts past and present (including radio variety)consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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An Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy Thanksgiving

Posted in Comedy, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Radio (Old Time Radio), Thanksgiving, Ventriloquism & Puppetry with tags , , , , on November 28, 2013 by travsd

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Okay here’s the last of our Thanksgiving 2013 posts, we think. This Thanksgiving episode of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy’s CBS radio program aired in 1955, quite late in the history of network radio. For more on Bergen and his wooden friend, go here.

For more on the history of show business consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Edgar Bergen: The Vent Event

Posted in Television, TV variety, Vaudeville etc., Ventriloquism & Puppetry with tags , , , on February 16, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Star of Vaudeville #119 Edgar Bergen (see here for his full bio). In honor of the day we share with you one of last appearances, The Vent Event for HBO in 1978 with Steve Allen:

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.

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Edgar Bergen

Posted in Hollywood (History), Vaudeville etc., Ventriloquism & Puppetry with tags , on February 16, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of the great ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (see here for his full bio). In honor of the day we share with you his 1936 Vitaphone short subject “Nut Guilty”. Note that Charlie McCarthy is in his earlier guise, that of a troublesome street urchin, in this picture:

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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